Type IV pilus retraction in pathogenic Neisseria is regulated by the PilC proteins

EMBO J. 2004 May 5;23(9):2009-17. doi: 10.1038/sj.emboj.7600200. Epub 2004 Apr 22.


Pathogenic Neisseria express type IV pili (tfp), which have been shown to play a central role in the interactions of bacteria with their environment. The regulation of piliation thus constitutes a central element in bacterial life cycle. The PilC proteins are outer membrane-associated proteins that have a key role in tfp biogenesis since PilC-null mutants appear defective for fibre expression. Moreover, tfp are also subjected to retraction, which is under the control of the PilT nucleotide-binding protein. In this work, we bring evidence that fibre retraction involves the translocation of pilin subunits to the cytoplasmic membrane. Furthermore, by engineering meningococcal strains that harbour inducible pilC genes, and with the use of meningococcus-cell interaction as a model for the sequential observation of fibre expression and retraction, we show that the PilC proteins regulate PilT-mediated fibre retraction.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Primers
  • Fimbriae Proteins / genetics
  • Fimbriae Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Fimbriae, Bacterial / physiology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Molecular Motor Proteins / metabolism
  • Neisseria / genetics
  • Neisseria / metabolism*
  • Neisseria meningitidis / genetics
  • Neisseria meningitidis / metabolism
  • Neisseria meningitidis / ultrastructure
  • Oligonucleotides
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transformation, Bacterial


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • Molecular Motor Proteins
  • Oligonucleotides
  • pilC protein, Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Fimbriae Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases